Its summer of my third year of vet school and I’m anything but excited about entering the clinical years of my vet degree.
It’s crazy really, I’m on an amazing wild camping cycling trip around
the stunning North Coast of Scotland. I’m with my friends from uni who are more like family and will be friends for life. I’m doing yoga by lochs. Laughing. Eating great cake. Eating terrible cake that tastes great because we’re camping. Having chocolate raisins in my porridge. And I’m on the course I spent a year working towards getting on. In other words I should be having the time of my life.
But in reality I’m miserable. I’m pretending that everything is fine, trying to enjoy the trip, but soon I’m crying on my friend’s shoulder. And then I’m making arrangements to end my trip early to go home and cry on my mum’s shoulder. I’m suddenly questioning every choice I’ve made in the last 2 years. It’s all I can do to not cry in front of strangers. It’s pretty exhausting and I’m barely holding it together.
The problem is, I don’t want to be a vet anymore.
Doing a vet course is pretty full on. You’re in lectures 9-5 each day. Then you head to the library to revise. Sometimes until 10 o’clock at night. And then you repeat. In third year it’s still all very theoretical and I’d had enough of lectures, I’d had enough of the library. It was all so intense that I’d convinced myself I wasn’t interested in being a vet any more. Meanwhile, the students on other courses seemed to be having a whale and I felt like I was missing out.
Seeing practice with qualified vets was only fuelling my doubts. I realised that being a vet is hard work. You work long hours, then you do on call, then you do some weekends. The job is emotionally exhausting as well. Pets are part of the family and this is reflected wide array of emotions we can come across within a 3 hour consult block. Some people are happy, some are distraught and sometimes anger is a natural part of the grieving process. As a vet you need to remain professional and compassionate in the face of all of these emotions. I wasn’t sure I was cut out for it. Or rather I was certain I wasn’t cut out for it.
The logical thing at this stage seemed to me to be to drop off the course and start a-fresh. Do something that interested me.
Except obviously that was not the logical thing, because you don’t tend to think logically when you are an over-dramatic 21 year old thinking you’ve made all the wrong choices. Fortunately I realised there were far more reasons to stay:
- I’m 3 years into a well respected 5 year course with good job prospects at the end
- I’ve already signed a lease on a flat with my brilliant friends from vet school who I would greatly miss
- Being a vet interested me once. There was nothing to say a new course that interested me would interest me for another 3 years
- I’d already had a gap year through indecision so felt I was getting pretty old to be starting another line of education (ridiculous I know)
- I didn’t actually have to be a vet at the end of it
In the end I made the decision to stay. 2 years is not that long in the grand scheme of things, and I could go get a cushy (if slightly boring) job with the government after, or work in a lab. I wasn’t staying on the course to be a vet, I was staying on the course to get a well respected qualification I could use for something.
However, something needed to change. I didn’t want to be unhappy for 2 year. 2 years is a long time to be sad.
I came up with an action plan:
- Work less hard – quite a hard point for me to implement. I’ve always struggled with the idea of doing something half heartedly and I the thought of ‘over-doing’ this point and having to re-sit an extra year did concern me.
- Talk to people – friends, lecturers, family… anyone who would understand really
- Find a hobby I could really throw myself into. I’d already tried korfball, badminton, football, rugby, tennis, horse riding, kick-boxing, under-water hockey (yes that’s a thing… ask anyone from Orkney)
I started with point 3 because that was the fun point… and well it turns out that’s the only point that really mattered. Because then I sort of forgot about the other points… or maybe the other points didn’t matter… or maybe I actually covered them anyway…
Point 3 (The Point Where I Start Talking About Bikes. And Don’t Stop Talking About Bikes. Ever. Sorry.)
I’d recently bought a road bike so the first thing I did when I got back was join the university cycling club and buy a jersey. I picked up my jersey from a nice guy named Chris who was president of the society at the time (a person who turned out to have a pretty big influence on my early cycling life). I thought, ‘he seems nice, hopefully they’ll all be this friendly’.
When I went on the first club ride it turned out most of them were this friendly. I was soon going on all of the club rides and riding at least twice a week (which for the record at the time seemed like a lot). By the time it got cold in Winter (and Edinburgh knows about cold) we were down to a select group of fairly hard core seasoned cyclists… and me. I was pretty lucky really. I was by far the weakest cyclist there, but instead of dropping me every ride the guys always rallied round to get me a solid ‘get round’ each week through some dedicated wind shielding and encouraging chat.
I could write a whole other blog post on all the great times I had with the uni cycling club (and maybe I will) But that’s not the point of this post. In fact I’ve momentarily forgotten about the point of this post. Because that’s what cycling does to you. You forget everything. You forget stress, you forget decisions you should possibly be making, you forget that you have a job or that you have to study. And in my case I forgot I was sad.
I forgot I was sad because I wasn’t sad any more. I was happy. I was content. And in forgetting I was sad I remembered all the things in life that made me happy. I remembered I was really lucky to have scraped on to a course I’d always been passionate about. I remembered that on that course I had made the best friends anyone could hope to have. I remembered how lucky I am to have the best family in the World, who will always be there (even when I’m not because I’m absorbed in the World of cycling again).
Points 1 and 2
Can’t really remember these any more. Pretty sure I crushed them somewhere in the last paragraph.
I’m not even sure there is a conclusion to this. Well maybe there is actually. Because the last 2 years of uni were the best by far.
And now I’m a vet, and a cyclist. My job is rewarding. My cycling is my passion, relieves stress and has given me several of the best friends I have.
So if it wasn’t for cycling I probably wouldn’t be a vet. But then if it wasn’t for vet school I definitely wouldn’t be a cyclist. And I love being both.